Future graphics in games
The Past - Part 1
Past - Part 1: CryEngine 1
The Past – Part 2 – CryENGINE 2
CryEngine 2 - Way to Photorealism
The Past - Part 2: CryEngine 2
The Present - CryEngine 3
CryENGINE 3 architecture
Why deferred lighting
Deferred lighting
Deferred pipelines bandwidth
How to design for the future?
Graphics architecture
How to design for the future?
Graphics in Future
Sparse Voxel Octree Usage in CryEngine 3
Sparse Voxel Octree Usage in CryEngine 3
Opportunities in Future
Perception-driven graphics
Perception-driven graphics
Real-time graphics is perception-driven
Under-sampling / super-sampling
Hybrid rendering
Stereoscopic rendering
3D stereoscopic rendering
Supported stereo modes in CryENGINE 3
Stereo video
Server-side rendering
Server-side rendering
Example of perception-driven graphics
Current Problems of Hardware architecture
Highly parallel scheduling
Highly parallel scheduling
Highly parallel scheduling
Highly parallel scheduling
Highly parallel scheduling
Future performance
Future performance
Challenges of Future
Category: programmingprogramming

Future graphics in games

1. Future graphics in games

Cevat Yerli
Crytek CEO
Anton Kaplanyan
Lead researcher

2. Agenda

• The history: Crytek GmbH
• Current graphics technologies
• Stereoscopic rendering
• Current graphics challenges
• Graphics of the future
• Graphics technologies of the future
• Server-side rendering
• Hardware challenges
• Perception-driven graphics

3. The Past - Part 1

• March 2001 till March 2004
• Development of Far Cry
• Development of CryEngine 1
• Approach: A naïve, but successful push for contrasts,
by insisting on opposites to industry. size, quality,
detail, brightness
• First right investment into tools - WYSIWYPlay

4. Past - Part 1: CryEngine 1

Polybump (2001)
• NormalMap extraction from High-Res Geometry
First „Per Pixel Shading“ & HDR Engine
• For Lights, Shadows & Materials
• High Dynamic Range
Long view distances & detailed vistas
Terrain featured unique base-texturing
High quality close ranges
High fidelity physics & AI
It took 3 years, avg 20 R&D Engineers



6. The Past – Part 2 – CryENGINE 2

• April 2004 till November 2007
• Development of Crysis
• Development of CryEngine 2
• Approach: Photorealism meets interactivity!
• Typically mutual exclusive directions
• Realtime productivity with WYSIWYPlay
• Extremely challenging, but successful

7. CryEngine 2 - Way to Photorealism

8. The Past - Part 2: CryEngine 2

• CGI Quality Lighting & Shading
• Life-like characters
• Scaleable architecture in
• Both content and pipeline
• Technologies and assets allow various configurations to be
maxed out!
• Crysis shipped Nov 2007, works on PCs of 2004 till today and for

9. The Present - CryEngine 3

• CryEngine 3 is build with next-gen in mind
• Scales through many-core support
• Performs on PC, Xbox360, PS3, DX11
• Built by avg. 25 people over 3 years

10. CryENGINE 3 architecture

• CryENGINE 2 successor, but now we do
• Deferred lighting (aka Light Prepass)
• Lighting in linear space
• Indirect lighting
• Coordinated dynamic and precomputed lighting
• Advanced color correction (artists-driven color charts)
• Streaming rendering assets (geometry, textures, animation)
• Run on both consoles (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3)
• Compressed and minimized bandwidth and memory requirements

11. Why deferred lighting

12. Deferred lighting

• Good decomposition of lighting
• No lighting-geometry interdependency
• Cons:
• Limited material variations
• Higher memory and bandwidth requirements
• Shading problems
2x2 tiles for mip computation fail for any kind of deferred texturing
(projective light textures, decals etc.)

13. Deferred pipelines bandwidth

Deferred pipelines bandwidth
Deferred shading
- BW: 6x
Full deferred
- BW: 5x
Partial deferred
- BW: 4x
Forward lighting
- BW: 1x(~3.5 MB/
frame) for 720p
Materials variety



15. How to design for the future?

• Facts
• Fixed Resolution for Gaming till 2012
• HD 1920 x 1080 @ 60 fps
Stereoscopic 3D experience: 30 fps per eye
• Limited by current consoles hardware
• Risk of „Uncanny Valley“ for content
Perception-driven approaches!
• Till 2012 majority of games must use artistic style, physics and AI
to differentiate!
What‘s the current artistic style? Desaturate colors?

16. Graphics architecture

• Breakthroughs in rendering architecture are not easy
• Proved multiple times by hardware vendors
Especially multiple recent tries with software renderer
• Trails along with a huge infrastructure
Outcome of a many-years development experience
Graphics architecture will be much more divergent
• Do we really want to write our own software renderer?
• Coming back to old good techniques like voxels, micropolygons etc.

17. How to design for the future?

• Alternatives that will brand some games in future:
• Point Based Rendering
• Ray Tracing
• Rasterization, as usual
• Micropolygons
• Data representations:
• Sparse Voxel Octrees (data structure)
• Sparse Surfel Octrees

18. Graphics in Future

• Sparse Voxel Octrees (Datastructure)
• Pros
Data structure is future proof for alternative rendering
Very good fit for unique geometry & texture
Geometry and texture budgets become less relevant
Artistic freedom becomes true
Naturally fits to automatic LOD schemes
• Cons
Neither infrastructure nor h/w
Slightly memory intensive
Fits nicely to Ray-tracing, but is still too slow

19. Sparse Voxel Octree Usage in CryEngine 3

• We already use it in production!!
• Used during level export to bake geometry and textures
• Stored in a sparse octree of triangulated sectors
• Very easy to manage and stream geometry and textures
• No GPU computations required (despite virtual texturing)
• Automatic correct LOD construction
• Adaptive geometric and texture details
Depending on the gameplay
• Huge space on disk for each level!
• Use aggressive texture compression
• Bake wisely, not the whole world

20. Sparse Voxel Octree Usage in CryEngine 3

21. Opportunities in Future

• Short-term user impact opportunities till 2012
The delta in visual opportunities is limited, BUT...
for the next 3 Years: Huge gains are possible in Physics, AI and
Simulation of Special Effects
Focus around that knowledge can lead to very different designs
• Mid-erm 2013+ creative opportunities
Future console generations
New Rendering Methods will become available
The renaissance of graphics will arrive
Allows new visual development directions that will rival full CGI feature
films qualty
Action point: Link yourself to console cycle

22. Perception-driven graphics


23. Perception-driven graphics

• PCF-based soft shadows
• Stochastic OIT
• Image-based reflections
• Ambient Occlusion (SSAO, prebaked etc.)
• Most posteffect (DoF, motion blur approximations)
• Light propagation volumes
• Many stochastic algorithms
• most of assumptions in real-time graphics
• All that works because of the limited human perception

24. Real-time graphics is perception-driven

• Human‘s eye has some specialities
• ~350 Mpixel spatial resolution
• Quite hard to trick it in this area
• ~24 Hz temporal resolution
• Very low, a room for techniques
• We don‘t notice the flickering @ > 40Hz
• We don‘t create an image for another machine, our target
customer is a human

25. Under-sampling / super-sampling

• Spatial
• Undersampling
Inferred shading
• Depth of field
Decoupled sampling
• Temporal
• Temporal anti-aliasing
• Motion blur
• Mixed
• Spatio-temporal anti-aliasing

26. Hybrid rendering

• There is no panacea rendering pipeline
• Even REYES is not used in its original form for movies
• Hybrid pipeline is possible on the current gen GPUs
• Will be even more topical for new generation of consoles
• Usually combines everything that matches and helps
• Ray-tracing for reflections and shadows
Could be triangles / point sets / voxel structures / etc.
• Voxels for better scene representation (partially)
• Screen-space contact effects (e.g. reflections)
• Much much more (a lot of ideas)

27. Stereoscopic rendering

Recent trend

28. 3D stereoscopic rendering

• Technique was there for a long time
• Becomes popular due to technologies, in games too
• No new concepts, similar to photography art though
One golden rule: don’t make the audience tired
• Crysis 2 already has a 1st class 3D Stereo support
• Use the depth histogram to determine the interaxial distance:

29. Supported stereo modes in CryENGINE 3

• Stereo rendering modes
• Brute-force stereo rendering
• Central eye frame with reprojection
• Experimental stochastic rendering from one of eyes
• Stereo output modes
• Anaglyph (color separation)
• Interlaced
• Horizontal joint images
• Vertical joint images
• Two monitors

30. Stereo video

31. Server-side rendering


32. Server-side rendering

• 4G networks have a good ground for that
• Low ping – a strong requirement for real-time games
• Will be widely deployed in 5-7 years
• Compression of synthesized video
• Temporally decompose the video details
• Use perception-based importance
Salience maps + user-side eye-tracking
• Need to amortize cloud-rendering cost per user:
Amortized trend
Number of users

33. Example of perception-driven graphics

Per-object importance map
•Example of perception-driven rendering
Saliency map
Courtesy of Matthias Bernhard
TU Vienna
•They use eye-tracking system to build importance map
•Can be provided by the game itself
•Adaptive video compression is possible along with adaptive

34. Current Problems of Hardware architecture


35. Highly parallel scheduling

• Small synthetic test (simulate GPU behavior)
• 512 cores (could be interpreted as slots of shared cache too)
• 32k small identical tasks to execute
Each item requires 1 clock on one core (so synthetic)
• Within a range of 256 to 2048 threads
• Scheduling overhead is taken into account in total time
Task feeding
Context switches
Overhead weight is not important

36. Highly parallel scheduling

Concurrent parallelism
Execution time
Scheduling overhead
Total time

37. Highly parallel scheduling

• Another test
• Real GPU!
• Screen-space effect (SSAO)
• Bandwidth-intensive pixel shader
Each item requires 1 clock on one core (so synthetic)
• Within a range of 5 to 40 threads
• Cache pollution causes a peak right after the saturation state
The time reaches the saturation performance with more threads asymptotically

38. Highly parallel scheduling

Cache saturation
Concurrent parallelism
Cache pollution peak

39. Highly parallel scheduling

• Scheduling overhead can be a problem
• Parallel scalability
• With homogenous tasks it comes to maximum at saturation
What about heterogeneous workload?
The existence of the minimum depends on the performance impact of scheduling
• We need to reduce it
• Configurable hardware scheduler!
• GRAMPS-like architectures are possible with it
• Ray tracing becomes much faster and SoL with bandwidth bottleneck

40. Atomics

• Atomics came from CPU hardware
• Used to build synchronization primitives in Oses
• Works only on integers
• Provides result of operation
We need absolutely different atomics!!!
• We use it mostly for gather/scatter operations
• MUST work on floating point numbers instead!
• In most cases no result needed
Improve atomics w/o read-back (fire-and-forget concept)
Operation should be done on memory controller / smart memory side
• We need order of magnitude faster performance for graphics atomics

41. Future performance

• PS3 and Xbox 360 are in-order
• “by optimizing for consoles we also speed up PC”
not really, we invest only into current consoles
• What’s the next generation of consoles?
• Larrabee 2 and Fermi ARE in-order
• Should we rewrite the architecture again?
• Death of Out-of-Order architecture?
• No way! Game platform will remain heterogeneous
Related to different game subsystems (game code vs rendering)
• Many new parallel languages and paradigms
• OpenCL, GRAMPS, C++0x, OpenMP, TBB, ConcRT, Ct
• Backwards scalability is a challenge

42. Future performance

• Mostly graphics, as it’s scalable without pain
• Doesn’t affect game-play
• Assets processing
• Texture compression becomes an issue as well
Both decompression AND compression complexity should be respected
• Shaders development
Compilation is too slow and not flexible
• Still not solved by DX11 DSL
• Getting worse with ComputeShaders
Debugging / profiling is still not there for compute shaders
• Developing a huge system might become a hell

43. Textures

• Quantization / color depth?
• BC6/7 delivers, but DX11-hw only

44. Challenges of Future

• Technology challenges
• Switching to a scaleable codebase
Think of parallelism & async jobs
Multithreading, scheduling
Larger codebases, multiple platforms & APIs
• Production challenges
• Cost of assets increase by ~50% annually
Content, besides quality increases, gets more & more „interactive“
Think to improve Tools, Pipelines & Bottlenecks to counter-effect , automate
Source Back-Ends Resource Compilers
The better the tools, the cheaper and/or the better your output

45. Efficiency

• We spend too much of computational power per frame!
• Precision is mostly redundant
No need to compute colors in 32-bits floating points
Even h/w rasterizers was 12-bits of fixed precision in good old times
• Humans do not notice the most of the picture in real-time graphics
It is a gameplay video rather than a still image
Neither we watch it like a movie, games are usually challenging
The importance of a particular technology is perception-driven
How important are the fully accurate rather very glossy reflections
• Graphics hardware should challenge incoherent workloads
• What about profit / development cost ratio?
• Seems like we already fall into uncanny valley in graphics technologies

46. Scopes

• Content costs will increase
If nothing changes Tools must adapt
Smarter & automated pipelines & tools will provide better, faster &
valid content data
Think procedural content creation
• 5y...gaming graphics will change,
but insignificantly in the next 3 years
• Today‘s technologies will drive the next 3 years in visual
development. The look is still about creativity and using
the given resource powers of today
• 5y...realtime gaming graphics will approach to current
CGI offline rendering

47. Conclusion

• Real-time rendering pipeline renovation is around the corner
Hardware improvements are required
Evolution of current techniques for production real-time rendering
Prepare to new representations and rendering pipelines
Better infrastructure for parallel development
Tools and authoring pipelines needs modernization
Consider server-side rendering: could change the direction drastically
• Perception-driven real-time graphics is a technology driver
Avoid uncanny valley in graphics technologies

48. Questions?

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